On September 11, 2019, IWC held its annual meeting online for the first time, on the Zoom platform. IWC President Addae A. Kraba greeted the participants from around the world and Rev. Carol Huston offered a message commemorating 9/11, highlighting that “people in the U.S. experienced fear and violence that others experience all the time in other parts of the world. May our projects alleviate that fear and remind others that this fear exists; may we move past the fear for hope and gratitude.”
The meeting featured a presentation by Julie Steinbach, Chair of IWC’s outreach committee, focusing on women’s empowerment projects in Kenya and IWC’s legacy in Uganda. The first part of the presentation covered Julie’s recent time spent in Kampala, Uganda visiting a school affiliated with the African Rural Schools Foundation (ARSF), whose mission is to build schools for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. IWC partnered with ARSF to implement a successful micro-loan program offering business training to 54 women and small loans to 40 women entrepreneurs (2010-2018).
Julie pointed out that the school’s electricity needs are increasingly supplied by solarization. The education includes religious education covering a broad range of religious traditions. It was interesting to note that the students stood up the whole time that the visitors were in the classroom, out of respect – that is their cultural expectation.
Julie’s next stop was Mumias, Western Kenya, where she learned about Acacia in Kenya, an outreach project of First Parish UU in Waltham, MA. Acacia’s mission is education and empowerment for young women in Western Kenya, giving young women the opportunity to go to high school.
We learned that the girls at the St. Elizabeth Lureko Girls’ School in Mumias are required to keep their hair very short so that hair care does not become a distraction from their studies. We also learned that the students celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day in May to break the stigma of menstruation. 4 out of 5 girls in East Africa lack access to health education and sanitary pads. For more information, please watch Julie’s presentation here: https://youtu.be/tR5f4333LV0
The business meeting continued with several reports and the election of new officers and board members, welcoming new board members Beth O’Connell (France/USA), Krisztina Pap (Germany/Romania), and Peg Swain (USA). Please see more information about our new board here.
Rev. Addae A. Kraba concluded the meeting with words from Rev. Dr. Dorothy Mae Emerson, who recently passed away: “Go shining!”